Today, I have decided to try something new. I would like to share an interview I did with Jason Will, the CEO of a startup called Zipkick. I met Jason last summer while I was at Draper University. Not only is Zipkick a great concept, but Jason is also a great guy. Now for the interview.
To begin, I asked Jason for a little background on himself. A sort of mini bio. As you all know already, Jason Will is CEO of Zipkick. But how did he get there? As a child, Jason grew up in a family that has been in the grocery business for about 45 years. When Jason was older, he became a technology consultant. As part of that job, he was working on many large-scale global projects that required a lot of traveling. Zipkick was the perfect intersection of all these fields that Jason had become knowledgeable in over the years.
Now that you know how Zipkick was born, let’s find out exactly what Zipkick does. The current business model for Zipkick is quite different from its original intended purpose. Before Zipkick became what it is today, it was the first personalized way to search and book hotels. This business model only lasted about three years, because Zipkick heavily relied on a third party. About three-quarters of the way through the three years that this business model lasted, the team lost their source of review data that they had licensed from a third party. It was at that point that the Zipkick team decided not to have a business model that relied heavily on a third party.
At this point, the Zipkick needed a quick pivot to stay alive. They decided to reach out to the influencer community they had built as part of their first business to ask them what they felt they wanted out of a business that was not already offered to influencers. The influencers wanted a way to increase their follower count, increase their engagement with followers, increase opportunities to monetize, and still be 100% their genuine self. Also, Zipkick team Didn’t want influencers to compromise their values. Through this, the second version of Zipkick was born. The pivot to the second business model took place during late 2015, and they were able to launch their IOS app around the end of May 2016.
Zipkick is currently made up of almost 200 influencers. It is also important to note that, as stated in the title of this article, Zipkick is a platform for recommendations, not reviews. Businesses cannot buy their way onto the platform. Every influencer that is a part of the Zipkick community is given a one on one interview with Jason before they are allowed to be a part of the platform.
As a whole, the Zipkick team learned many valuable lessons from their first business model. The importance of not relying on a third party was not the only lesson they learned. With their first business model, they released an Android app, IOS app, and web app all at the same time. This became problematic because any problem they had on one app was the same on the other two apps as well. This meant they had to spend more time fixing each issue three separate times. They learned that the second time around they wanted to launch one app at a time, and they did not want to launch a second or third app until the first was as good as it can be.
A good point that Jason made during my interview with him was, “Don’t try to manage multiple platforms until you understand your business inside and out, and how people are using it, and how you plan on generating revenue.” What he meant is to work out all the kinks in one app befoe launching another. Currently, Zipkick is only available on IOS for the reasons mentioned above. However, they do plan to launch a web app next and an Android app following the web app.
Check out the following links to learn more about Zipkick: